Healthy Borscht Soup (Paleo, Whole30, Vegan)

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Made with nutritious beets, cabbage and root vegetables, my Ukrainian paleo and vegan borscht (also known as borsh, borsht, or борщ) is perfect as a dinner meal or hot lunch. Serve with a dollop with sour cream, dairy-free alternative or without. This is a gluten-free and Whole30 friendly recipe.


Healthy Borscht Beet Soup (Borsht, Borsh) - Paleo, Vegan, Whole30

If I had to name one dish that best represents Ukrainian cuisine it would have to be borscht. It’s a hearty, hot soup made with beetroot, which gives it a gorgeous burgundy red colour and sweetness. It’s a really tasty soup that can be made any time of the year but it’s particularly good in autumn and winter when all of the ingredients are in peak season.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN BORSCHT INGREDIENTS?

Key boscht soup ingredients

In its whole form, borscht is actually a vegetable soup as it features cabbage, carrots, onions, garlic, potatoes, tomatoes and beets. But, if you had to pick the key ingredient for borscht, it’s definitely beets. Don’t have beetroot? Can’t make borscht! They are what gives borscht its beautiful colour and sweet flavour.

Depending on location, borscht recipes include a variety of other vegetables, spices and condiments served at the table. My recipe is based on the flavours and textures I remember from my childhood when I ate borscht a couple of times a week. I talk about a few borscht variations below.

 

BORSCHT SOUP NUTRITION

This borscht recipe is vegetarian and vegan-friendly so I am only using vegetables and veggie stock. Many traditional recipes also used beef stock or broth and some tender braised beef pieces and bones. As you can imagine, even the simple vegetarian borscht version is super nutritious with lots of vitamins and fibre.

As a veggie soup, this version is lacking in Vitamins D and B12. Add mushrooms or/and red meat for vitamin D; B12 can be added with red meat or other meat or you can serve some nutritional yeast as a sprinkle on top. These are just small nutritional boosts, of course, and won’t fill in the gap completely. 

For extra protein, you can add whatever fits your diet: meat or chicken, beans or legumes etc.

If you can tolerate a little dairy, a dollop of sour cream on top is very traditional (and tasty) but you can easily go without or even try a little coconut cream or coconut yoghurt instead.

Paleo Borscht Soup With Beets & Cabbage (Vegan, Whole30)

HOW TO MAKE BORSCHT SOUP

Borscht is easily made on the stove but can also be cooked in a crockpot slow cooker or in the Instant Pot. 

Start by preparing all of the vegetables as this is what makes the most effort. You can use a food processor to help you grate and chop all of the veggies. I like to start cooking simultaneously as the veggies don’t all go in at the same time. 

Prepare onions, garlic, beets, celery and carrots first and cabbage and potatoes last. The idea is to saute all the veggies first, then add the seasoning, spices, tomato paste and vinegar (essential as borscht needs some acidity) and stock. Once all ingredients are in, bring everything to a boil and then simmer gently for half an hour until potatoes are soft.

Important: take the soup off the heat and then add the fresh dill, cover with a lid and let it sit for 10 minutes to set.

Note, the soup’s flavours will develop every further the next day so make sure to leave some leftovers.

 

CAN I USE PICKLED BEETS in BORSCHT?

Actually, yes! In fact, some traditional Ukrainian recipes call for pickled beets rather than fresh (also because you couldn’t always get fresh vegetables). If you’re using pickled beets, make sure to omit the vinegar as they will add the tang that is essential in this soup. I like using raw beets as they are more nutritious in my opinion.

CAN I FREEZE BORSCHT?

Yes, this soup is great for freezing and should last for up to 3 months. As it’s vegetarian and vegan borscht, it will also keep well in the fridge (for up to 5-6 days). Reheat well before serving.

BORSCHT VARIATIONS

Ah! There are hundreds of variations of this delicious beet soup. Every household has its own family recipe that gets passed down through generations. Some differences are based on location and you will find some differences in Russian borscht, Polish borscht and the Ukrainian classic. Here are some famous versions:

Ukrainian borscht is often made with green peppers and white beans. Adding peppers and/or beans to borscht is quite common and makes for a heartier meal. Many people will also add beef or cook the stock with meat bones. Mushrooms are also often added to the Ukranian borscht. While the Russian borscht is usually beets, cabbage and potatoes (and some carrots).

Borscht with beans and beef

Pureed borscht is another way you can serve this gorgeous soup. Simply add all ingredients to a blender and whiz it all up. This version can also be served cold in summer. 

Pureed borscht soup

Polish borscht (barszcz) is made with beets, carrots, garlic and onion but might not have cabbage and potatoes. Again, this will vary from family to family.

TRY MORE OF MY UKRAINIAN RECIPES

Beetroot & Root Vegetable Salad Vinegret (vegan)

Creamy Eggplant Salad (vegetarian)

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls with Crispy Bacon

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Paleo & Vegan Borscht Soup

Borscht Soup (Paleo, Whole30, Vegan)

  • Author: Irena Macri
  • Prep Time: 20 mins
  • Cook Time: 35 mins
  • Total Time: 55 mins
  • Yield: 4-6 1x
  • Category: Soup
  • Method: Boiled
  • Cuisine: Ukrainian

Description

Borscht soup is a dish that best represents Ukrainian cuisine. It’s a hearty, hot soup made with beetroot, which gives it a gorgeous red colour and sweetness. It’s nutritious and healthy and is suitable to vegan, paleo, Whole30 and gluten-free diets.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 largeonion, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 large celery stick, diced
  • 3 medium beets, peeled and grated
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and grated
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 medium white potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 1/3 white cabbage, thinly sliced (if it’s a very large cabbage, 1/4 might be enough)
  • 1.5 litre vegetable stock (if not vegan, bone broth is great to use here)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed powder
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider or white vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

To serve

  • Bunch of fresh dill
  • 1 cup of sour cream (optional, or coconut yoghurt or dairy-free cream)

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions and celery and sauté on medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Prepare the rest of the vegetables in the meantime.
  2. Add the grated carrots, beetroot, garlic and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir and sauté together for 2-3 more minutes.
  3. Add the potatoes, cabbage, and the rest of the ingredients, including the stock. Stir through and heat the heat up to bring to a boil.
  4. Once boiling, turn the heat to low and cook, covered, for 25 minutes. Turn the heat off and taste for salt. Depending on the stock used, you might need to add another pinch of salt. The soup should taste a little sweet but still savoury with a little acidity from the vinegar. Potatoes should be nice and soft.
  5. Sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of chopped fresh dill and let the borscht rest, with the lid on, for about 10 minutes before serving. I always add a dollop of sour cream when serving, which is then mixed through the soup when eating. You can easily leave the cream out but it is the traditional way to eat borscht and it rounds out the flavours very nicely.

Notes

White potatoes can be replaced with parsnips, swedes or sweet potatoes.

Nutritional breakdown is for soup only, not the sour cream or dairy-free cream on top.

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Comments

7 Comments
  1. I just made this – WOW, so delicious!!! I love how the flavours really come together. I can’t believe I have never made this before – it will now be part of my repertoire!! Thank you so much for the wonderful recipe!

      1. I make this as well & store in jars in my coldroom. I use soup bones to make the broth or just buy it. The secret is using garden veggies like potatoes, peas, beans, shredded cabbage, shredded carrots etc. (even canned Heinz beans & tomato sauce). The secret to “Baba’s Borstch” is to use Ketchup rather than tomato paste…The DILL is a must & that freezes very well. Just pick, wash, dry on paper towels & chop finely & store in the freezer in small jars or ziplok bags & just use a fork & scrape off as much as you will need. Also great on new potatoes or in salads. This is my Romanian version of Borstch!! Yummu for the tummy!!!

  2. My half Russian/ Ukraine husband said it was very close to his mother’s borscht. I used pomegranate molasses instead of vinegar which gave it a beautiful flavour. It will be our family favourite now. I’m half Polish so very special to both of us. Tradition!

    1. Love the idea of the pomegranate molasses. I have some in my pantry, so I will have to try it next time. Glad you liked it.

  3. Fore some reason borscht turned me off as a child–cannot tell you why but think your recipe will help me get over this irrational feeling. Have a bunch of garden fresh, organic beets in the refrig as well as cabbage and carrots and onions–all home/local grown and organic. No dill but lots of fennel weed which often substitutes in my kitchen. Love the idea of other root veggies than potatoes. You mention parsnips but there is a big turnip also available as well as a good size kohlrabi both wondering how to be used. So thankx for this recipe and can’t wait to try it.

    1. I think you can throw in any root vegetables you like, including kohlrabi which is part of the cabbage family anyway. It will work well!

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